Shortening substitute

Posted in frugal living, information on July 3rd, 2018 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

I am trying to replace all the “weird” ingredients in my cooking with more natural ingredients. Shortening has been a particularly difficult one to substitute, as it has certain properties that no other cooking fat has.

One suggestion I read was to try substituting clarified butter. In a spirit of scientific enquiry, I tried it with a blueberry coffee cake.

Result? Oh my word. A lovely, short, buttery coffee cake. It was divine. And it was so easy to make the substitute!

  • 1 cup / 2 sticks / 225g butter PLUS
  • 2 tablespoons / 28g butter
  • Put all the butter into a saucepan. Heat over medium low heat until the butter begins to “sizzle”. This is the water beginning to cook out.

    Keep the heat under the butter until all the sizzling has stopped. Pour the clarified butter through a cheesecloth to catch any milk solids.

    Pour into a suitable 1 cup container and refrigerate. Makes 1 cup of clarified butter / shortening substitute. Use in any recipe that calls for shortening.

    (Do you have to refrigerate it? No, clarified butter is shelf stable. But having it cold helps when it comes time to make the dough.)

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    Kitchen scales

    Posted in information on June 30th, 2018 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    I know that most American cooks use volume measurements in their cooking, but a set of dual-unit (lbs and kg) kitchen scales allow more precision and more repeatability in your cooking.

    Just now, on, there are sets of digital scales from $7 to well over $200. Most of these scales are well rated by customers.

    It’s a small investment in your cooking, and will help you cook recipes from other countries that don’t use volumetric measures. What do you have to lose? Well, apart from the $7 for the scales, plus the $20 for that thing, and oh there’s a new book by my favourite author…. 🙂

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    Cake Flour substitute

    Posted in frugal living on June 23rd, 2018 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    Cake flour makes the best cakes; light, delicate, delicious.

    It is also expensive and can be difficult to find. So let’s substitute it!

  • 3.5 cups All Purpose (plain) flour
  • 0.5 cups corn starch
  • Put the ingredients in a container with a firmly fitting lid, and shake well to combine. (Pretend you’re playing the maracas…)

    Use in any recipe calling for cake flour.

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    Posted in British food on June 10th, 2018 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    In a shocking bout of amnesia, I forgot to post the basic scone recipe, courtesy of Steve’s Kitchen. His recipe is a bit sparse, so here it is fleshed out in all its glory.

  • 350g / 12oz of Self Raising Flour
  • 85g / 3oz of Castor / Superfine Sugar
  • 85g / 3oz of Softened Butter
  • 200ml / 7.5 fl oz of Milk
  • 1 Egg Yolk to Glaze the Scones before cooking
  • Preheat your oven to 400F/200C. Mix the first 4 ingredients to make a fairly wet dough. Cut your scones to your preferred size, being very gentle when you re-work the dough to prevent gluten formation which will make subsequent scones tough.

    Brush the top of the scones with the egg yolk then bake the scones for 10 to 12 minutes, until the top becomes golden brown and delicious. Serve with lemon curd, or with clotted cream and jam.

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    Sticky Toffee Pudding

    Posted in British food, dessert, pudding, recipe on May 28th, 2018 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    It is just a simple fact that Sticky Toffee Pudding is everyone’s favourite, they just may be in denial about it. My son adores this stuff and will happily try to eat his own body weight of sticky deliciousness. If you don’t like Sticky Toffee Pudding, that’s fine: Jamie will eat your share!

    • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 3/4 cup pitted dates
    • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 stick unsalted butter (4oz/112g)
    • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
    • 1 cup brown sugar

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch round or square baking dish. Sift the flour and baking powder onto a sheet of waxed paper. Chop the dates fine. Place in a small bowl and add the boiling water and baking soda; set aside. In a bowl of electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla; beat until blended. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Add the date mixture to the batter and fold until blended with a spatula. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Bake until pudding is set and firm on top, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire rack.

    Toffee Sauce: Combine the butter, heavy cream and brown sugar in a small heavy saucepan; heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil gently over medium low heat until mixture is thickened, about 8 minutes. Preheat broiler. Spoon about 1/3 cup of the sauce over the pudding. Spread evenly on top. Place pudding under the broiler until the topping is bubbly, about 1 minute. Serve immediately spooned into dessert bowls. Drizzle with toffee sauce and top with a spoonful of whipped or clotted cream.

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    BBQ sauce

    Posted in recipe on May 11th, 2018 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    I have been trying to find a BBQ sauce worth making for a long time. I have tried so many different recipes, all of which have let me down.

    Until now. This recipe hits every note I expect a BBQ sauce to have. Enjoy!

  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup whisk(e)y*
  • 2 cups ketchup#
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Worcester sauce
  • hot sauce to taste
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Place first 3 ingredients in a wide saucepan or skillet. Simmer gently until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Strain the sauce into a suitable container.

    * whisk(e)y – use any tasty Scottish, Irish, or American whisk(e)y or bourbon, so long as it’s one you would drink.
    # ketchup – check your ingredients list carefully. It is a lot easier these days to find ketchup made with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.

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    Pancake syrup

    Posted in frugal living, recipe on February 13th, 2018 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    Based on my experiments with treacle and dark treacle, I decided to take on pancake syrup. With genuine maple syrup being quite expensive, and commercial pancake syrups being mainly high fructose corn syrup, I wanted something with ingredients I have in my pantry.

    One problem with the cheater pancake syrups on sites like Allrecipes is that they almost always re-crystallise, so I thought Id have a go with the golden syrup technique. Oh, yes, I am on a winner here: came out perfect, and no crystallisation after 24 hours!


  • 1lb white sugar
  • 1.5 cups water
  • Add the sugar and the water to a saucepan. Bring to a full, rolling boil then add

  • 1/4 teaspoon citric acid (check the exotic ingredients section of your local grocery store) OR substitute 1/4 lemon
  • Reduce the syrup to a low simmer for 40 minutes. This will allow the citric acid / lemon juice to invert the sugar syrup, which means no crystallisation. Take the pot off the heat then add:

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla flavouring
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple flavouring (optional)
  • Decant into a glass jar that has been thoroughly pre-heated with not quite boiling water. Serve generously over pancakes, waffles, etc.

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    Update to Dark Treacle

    Posted in British food, information, recipe on January 28th, 2018 by stuart — 1 Comment so far

    Over on this post I take you through how to make Dark Treacle. I recently managed to source some Lyons Dark Treacle at a reasonable price, so I was able to do a side-by-side taste comparison.

    If you’d like to make a Dark Treacle that tastes almost exactly like Lyons, there is one simple substitution. First, you need to make some:


  • 3.5 cups white granulated sugar
  • about 2/3 to 3/4 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
  • Weigh the ingredients to come to 1kg / 2.2lb.

    Put the granulated sugar in a bowl. Pour the molasses over the top and stir together with a fork.

    Continue with the dark treacle making as on the other post, except you need to measure out dark brown sugar instead of white sugar as ingredient 3. You will finish up with a dark treacle that tastes almost exactly like the original.

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    Does your recipe help or hinder?

    Posted in rant on January 23rd, 2018 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    I have been having a lot of fun deep diving into the history of pudding and making the recipes, but there is a group of recipes that are quite annoying. Pudding is supposed to meet 3 criteria:

  • easy
  • quick
  • cheap
  • I have lost track of how many contemporary recipes have ingredients such as “organic free range eggs”, “organic raw milk”, “lard rendered from a heritage breed pig”, “reduced fat yoghurt”. I have seen this crime committed by “celebrity chefs” as well as everyday food bloggers. There is no excuse for this.

    If you are composing a recipe and it is full of such ingredients: STOP. Go back. Look at what you have written, then re-write it to list “eggs”, “milk”, “lard”, “yoghurt”.

    Write the recipe without any fancy language or fancy ingredients and trust your readers to make the recipe with what they have in their home. Surely this is the whole point of home cooking?

    A recipe is there to help someone break away from fast food and convenience food. Please, for the love of all that’s holy, stop making it harder for people.

    Daniel at Casual Kitchen coined a nice phrase for this: “ingredient bragging“, and he expands nicely on my rant here.

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    Rice pudding

    Posted in British food, dessert, pudding, recipe on January 23rd, 2018 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    Continuing the pudding theme, here is one of the old favourites which a lot of people don’t realise is their favourite until it’s put in front of them. The best part of this recipe is that it uses ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry…

    Make this recipe, and enjoy a rice pudding hug 🙂

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) uncooked white long-grain rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (240ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) white sugar (or golden syrup)
  • 1 1/3 cups (315ml) milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter
  • 2 tablespoons dried fruit (I prefer raisins, but use what you prefer)
  • Place rice, salt, and water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat; sprinkle with sugar and pour in milk. Stir with a whisk until until the thin layer of cooked-on starch at the bottom of the pan is cleared and incorporated into the mixture, 2 or 3 minutes.

    Place pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it reaches your desired of level of doneness and creaminess, 8 to 10 minutes. The longer it cooks, the thicker and stickier it will be. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and cinnamon. Very quickly whisk in the egg yolk (to prevent it from cooking; you could also temper the yolk with some of the hot rice before you add it to the pot). Whisk for about 1 more minute. Add butter and dried fruit; stir thoroughly.

    Transfer warm pudding to serving dishes. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, 3 to 4 hours.

    And let’s be honest here…. you’re going to make a double batch, aren’t you? Because who doesn’t want a large batch of rice pudding!

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